Remembering Air India

Culture and Public Memory

Air India Book CoverDr. Angela Failler's project, Building Communities of Memory: Remembrance Practice After the 1985 Air India Bombings, was initially funded by a SSHRC Standard Research Grant (2010-2013). It involves a study of remembrance practices dedicated to the Air India bombings including public memorials and commemorative events, state-sponsored memory-justice processes, and media and artistic representations. It also conceptualizes a framework for building “communities of memory” to allow those most immediately affected by the bombings to be joined by others in remembrance. 

Through the recently released edited collection, The Art of Mourning: Remembering Air India co-authored by Dr. Failler, and an in-development sole-authored manuscript by Failler titled Public Memory and the Afterlife of the 1985 Air India Bombings, Failler has established relationships with several artists who have represented the bombings in their work and who, themselves, lost family members in the bombings. Failler also plans to bring these artists together with other researchers and experienced curators to participate in a “Curatorial Dreaming Workshop” toward the design of an exhibition to be shown in public spaces and also plans to develop and build an on-line project using Scalar, a platform designed for scholars to write and disseminate long-form, media-rich scholarship digitally. This project, whose working title is Air India Counterpublics, would be an experiment in building web-based communities of memory, serving a three-fold purpose as: (1) a space for artists, cultural producers and academics to connect and exchange ideas and work on questions of representation and remembrance of the 1985 Air India bombings; (2) a data repository to electronically archive resources; (3) an interactive virtual exhibit site for new work that emerges as a result of the exchanges among this network.

Recently, Dr. Failler published an article in The Conversation, drawing parallels between the remembrance practices of the Air India bombings with the recent bombing of Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752. Her article, "Will Flight PS752 victims be remembered differently than those killed in the Air India bombing?" asks, as a reflection on the lack of mourning of the Canadian victims of the Air India bombings in 1985, "Does the national mourning as a result of the tragedy of PS752 mean then that Canada has since changed? Are we befittingly shaken this time around?" Ultimately, she concludes with the comment that "The best we can hope for is that our practice of collective remembrance might become the grounds upon which those of us who were not immediately affected by the downing of PS752—or the Air India bombings—join in memory and mourning with those who were. In doing so, we learn to live alongside one another in the aftermath of loss with renewed connection."